Leaders: Scotland must learn from London’s mistakes by 2014
TEAM GB has finally struck gold, and the nation celebrates, relieved that the promise of a golden performance by its athletes finally appears to be coming true.
But the athletic performance does not seem to be being matched by the economic benefits that were promised by the politicians who backed London’s bid to host the Olympics.
London’s streets seem curiously empty of shoppers, hotels have unexpected numbers of empty beds, and restaurants are waiting for empty tables to fill. What has gone wrong?
Recession seems to be an obvious candidate to blame. Most of the developed world has experienced lost jobs and shrinking incomes, so it should be no surprise that the numbers of north Americans and Europeans able to spend their summer holidays spectating at the Olympics are fewer than expected. Still, a shortfall there ought to have been counterbalanced to some extent by more visitors from those countries where incomes continue to grow, especially China and India which account for more than a third of the world’s population.
Perhaps exaggerated concerns that London would be unpleasantly over-crowded are a more probable cause. Stories that the city’s traffic would snarl up, that the Tube would be crammed and it would be impossible to get about the place were legion.
That would point the finger at the media. But it should also be recalled that many hotels put their prices up, hoping to cash in. They may have found that potential tourists, after inquiring about the costs of a stay during the Olympics, decided their budgets would be better spent by going elsewhere this summer.
Expectations of Olympic inflation prompted VisitScotland to launch a campaign aimed at prospective visitors to Britain and telling them that they could experience all they wanted from a holiday in Britain by by-passing London and coming to Scotland instead.
The agency claims this campaign has been a success and it is true that visitor numbers at this year’s Edinburgh Festival seem to be up on last year. But other indicators, especially footfall around shopping centres tell a different story. The jury is still out on whether the Olympics, either in the perverse effect sought by VisitScotland or in the direct effect promised by the attraction of new visitors to Britain, have been a bonus for Scottish tourism.
Perhaps the reason is that those who promoted the London bid miscalculated. London was already one of the world’s top tourist destinations, it was always a dubious proposition that the Olympics would lure more. Whatever the reason, the Scottish government and organisers of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow need to understand it. While ensuring a great sporting occasion is the top priority, Scotland needs to reap the maximum spin-off benefit in extra visitors and in enhancing the image of the country.
Isn’t it time firms rewarded interns?
For those young people who have followed conventional wisdom – that obtaining a degree is the best route to secure well-paid employment – nothing is more depressing than to be unable to get a job after graduation. Recession has inevitably made this problem worse. So it is cheering to know that a government-funded scheme is making a difference to graduate job prospects. Since 2010, the Scottish government has backed the Adopt an Intern scheme set up by the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, which provides unemployed graduates with paid work placements in charities, companies and the public sector across the country. Such placements are valuable as they can provide a missing element in many CVs – experience – which is often vital in landing a permanent job.
These internships seem to be proving their worth, with about two-thirds of those engaged in them going on to full-time work. The public funding announced yesterday seems to be remarkably good value for money. Scottish universities already have a good record in producing ready-for-work graduates. Nine-tenths of their graduates find work, and if this scheme improves that record, it will be even better value for money. Internships have had a bad name since it was discovered that some employers, including MPs, saw interns as unpaid labour. Public funding for these internships has ensured that those employed by it receive some reward, though there is perhaps a question mark over that. If these interns are adding value to the
organisation, why shouldn’t that
organisation return some of that added value in pay?
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 10 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east